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Arts and Culture

Women's Month: Filipina artists lead Asian auction; Filipina becomes first to exhibit in Barcelona

Marane A. Plaza - Philstar.com
Women's Month: Filipina artists lead Asian auction; Filipina becomes first to exhibit in Barcelona
Renowned Spanish-Filipina painter Betsy Westendorp (left), known largely for her exuberant floras and landscapes, rang in P17.5 million with her towering untitled painting of a floral bouquet (right) at almost 11 feet long and 7 feet wide.
Rustans/Released; Leon Gallery

MANILA, Philippines — In time for International Women's Month, the spotlight were on women at this year's Asian Cultural Council (ACC) Auction held at León Gallery in Makati last weekend, as powerhouse ladies and female subjects have been made and broke astounding records in today's global art scene. 

Renowned Spanish-Filipina painter Betsy Westendorp, known largely for her exuberant floras and landscapes, rang in P17.5 million with her towering floral bouquet at almost 11 feet long and 7 feet wide. Her painting from 1986 set the tone for the entire auction’s female-centric results. 

"Odalisca (Odalisque)," a Juan Luna masterpiece whose focal point is a woman, also broke a record. The first Filipino artist to put the Philippines on the map set a milestone for Luna watercolors when the 1882-signed and dated work sold for P11.7 million. The languorous depiction of a harem woman comes from the master’s fertile Roman period which produced his memorable "Death of Cleopatra" as well as the historic "Spoliarium."

The working women of Fernando Amorsolo followed suit, beginning with a fetching "kayumanggi" portrait titled "A Typical Filipina Beauty" from 1926, which brought in P10.5 million.

"Mango Gatherers," also by Amorsolo and from 1970, reeled in P13 Million. It was thanks to its distinguished provenance — the society doyenne, Doña Nene Tuason Quimson. 

The imposing "Caryatid" — a column sculpted in the shape of a Grecian maiden — from the Edificio Tuason Building once defined Escolta at the turn of the century. Last Saturday, its iconic status led it to stroll off with P1.6 million. 

Leon Gallery director Jaime Ponce de Leon revealed that the graceful portrait of another illustrious society matron, Doña Nena Tambunting, was withdrawn from the auction floor last minute — it will instead be donated to the Philippine National Museum’s roster of portraits. 

The Asian Cultural Council Auction was presented by León Gallery and ANCX, and organized by ACC, a nonprofit foundation that provides opportunities for international cultural exchange to artists, scholars, and arts professionals in Asia and the United States. A  "grantmaker, grantseeker, and convener," the organization highlights the importance of cultural exchange "for a more harmonious and peaceful world."

A portion of the proceeds of the annual ACC auction is for the benefit of Filipino artists intent on spreading their wings abroad. One of the auction’s featured artists, ACC grant recipient Nikki Luna, has an ongoing show at the Casa Vicens Museum in Barcelona. She now has the distinction of being the first Filipino to exhibit there.

“It’s a fitting tribute not just to the Asian Cultural Council but also to the cause of all women artists,” said Ponce de Leon.

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